Roland Pignard Morgon “Tradition” 2015
Winegrowers: Roland and Joëlle Pignard
Region: Morgon (Beaujolais, Burgundy)
Shipping: June 2018
$35 for a Cru Beaujolais from one of France’s top biodynamic winegrowers? Yes it’s possible.
Today’s wine is Gamay in its unadulterated glory; its aromatics sing with exotic spice, violets, forest berries and dried herbs. It is low in alcohol and among the most terroir expressive Gamays I’ve ever tasted. From one of France’s best natural winegrowers we bring you a Cru Morgon of unsurpassed purity and deliciousness; a wine that represents the essence of Morgon: bright, fleshy fruit and a palatable joie de vivre. Roland and Joëlle Pignard grow some of the most complex and Burgundian expressions of the Gamay grape that are rendered today. In the heart of Beaujolais, above Villié-Morgon, they farm their 4.5 hectares of steep, hillside vineyards in strict accordance with biodynamic practices. Using only a horse and plow, no chemicals, and doing most of the vineyard and cellar work themselves by hand, the resulting wines have pure fruit and perfect acidity, a pronounced mineral character and incredible terroir, life and energy. They also have the ability to age well. Five years from now you will be blown away by this wine’s perfume, minerality and graceful evolution. And you’ll marvel at how it outperforms Burgundian Pinot Noirs that easily sell for twice the price. We offer this wine for $35. Comparable wines from Marcel Lapierre, Jean Follard and Guy Breton easily sell for $48 and more. Roland and Joëlle are determined to produce wines that express their terroir, "with respect for the land, the vines, our consumers and our own health." We hope you try them! Our allotment is small – just five cases – so act fast to avoid disappointment.
Beaujolais is located just north of Lyon. The region’s first winegrowers were the Romans. From the 7th century through the middle ages Benedictine monks were the primary winegrowers. The region got its name from the town of Beaujeu in the 10th century. The wines of Beaujolais are mostly made from the Gamay grape but a small quantity, less than 1%, is also produced from Chardonnay and Aligoté. One of the unique characteristics of Gamay wines from the region is that they are made using carbonic maceration.
Beaujolais is arguably the birthplace of the natural wine movement. I’m not one to use the “n” word easily because I believe it’s open to too many interpretations. However, conceptually, natural wines are about minimal inputs and I’m all for that. It’s what a winegrower like Jules Chauvet set out to do in the 1970s after becoming disillusioned with the wines he was growing at the time. Chauvet was a winemaker, a researcher, a chemist, and a viticulture prophet. It was he who, upon the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the 1950s, first spoke out for “natural wine,” harkening back to the traditional methods of Beaujolais. Roland Pignard, along with Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, Marcel Lapierre and Jean Foillard, followed in his footsteps.
Roland is the third generation of winemakers in his family. He and his wife Joëlle took over the family estate in 1977 and immediately turned to organic farming practices. In 2004 they sold off six hectares of their estate to focus on their remaining four and a half hectares in Beaujolais-Villages, Morgon and Regnié. Their vineyards have a Lilliputian charm because of their small size and because Gamay is traditionally grown close to the ground as a tiny, bush trained vine.
In 2010 Roland and Joëlle received their biodynamic certification from Demeter and in 2013 they became members of the Renaissance des Appellations. This organization promotes high quality and the accurate expression of each wine’s appellation through biodynamic farming and simple cellar work; members must adhere to the organization’s Quality Charter. The organization was established in 2001 and has close to 200 members in thirteen countries. Notable members include Domaines Zind Humbrecht (Alsace), Leroy/D’Avenay (Burgundy, 50% 0wners of DRC), de l’Ecu (Muscadet), La Coulée de Serrant (Loire), de Quintaine (Thevenet family, Macon), du Joncuas (S. Rhone) to name a few.
Roland and Joëlle do all their own vineyard work by hand, including the use of horse-drawn implements to not compact the soil. Every harvest sees the same 15 to 20 people used to handpick the grapes and do a severe selection in the vineyard. Fermentations with wild yeasts are short (macerations last 6 to 12 days depending on the cuvée) to avoid the development of undesirable bacteria and to ensure the wines are not over extracted.
Roland and Joëlle Pignard's Morgon Tradition 2015 comes from 60 year old vines with small yields in the commune of Saint-Joseph northwest of Villié-Morgon. The vineyard is at high elevation and is composed of clay and silica over granite. The wine was aged in small old barriques and bottled, unfined and unfiltered with only 15 mg/liter of added sulphur.
2015 was an excellent vintage. The Morgon Tradition shows a deep red/black colour and lovely aromas of blackberry, strawberry and violets - very perfumed with hints of spice. The palate is round and dense with creamy blackberry fruit framed in fine acidity, a pronounced mineral character of graphite and stoney minerals, and ample round tannins. This is a gorgeous young Morgon, beautifully balanced at 12.5% alcohol. This wine can develop positively Burgundian gravitas over the next 10 years but if you want to enjoy it now I recommend decanting for 30 minutes and serving it at 15˚ in Burgundy stems. And if you’re thinking of something to eat with this wine I suggest serving sautéed duck breasts with wild mushrooms — this is a marriage made in heaven. Cheers!